11 tips for learners to cope better with exam stress (at any grade)


I sometimes have nightmares that I’m back in Matric and have to write exams. I don’t know why it fills me with such panic now, considering I was very chilled back then. You know how you get learners who get stressed around exam time? Well, I was the complete opposite – I was most often relaxed and not that diligent, and only really started working hard for the last set of Matric prelims.

I wasn’t the greatest learner either – leaving things to the last minute, and drinking Bioplus and lots of coffee to help me get through longer nights studying. Fortunately I did fairly well for Matric despite a dodgy work ethic and low motivation, and afternoons watching TV instead of learning.

With increased life and learner pressure these days, I totally understand that kids – and their parents – are commonly fearful and anxious around exam time. I worry for my son’s Afrikaans, spelling and Maths tests, and we haven’t even hit high school. I believe that a little bit of stress isn’t the worst thing, and can motivate one to buckle down and work hard, but in a more severe form, it can have adverse effects causing constant fatigue, headaches, increased irritability, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, increased heart rate and poor appetite, which in turn negatively affect studying and results.

Though as much as pressure and expectations have increased these days, so too have the tools to help kids study better and smarter (and no, I’m definitely NOT talking about the Bioplus). There are some apps like Vodacom’s e-School platform, which is an education portal, for grades R to 12, in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages.

This tool has curriculum-aligned educational content and is a backed by The Department of Basic Education. This learning portal is easy to access. All you need to do to get registered is visit www.vodacom.co.za/e-school, from your cellphone, tablet or laptop. You then get to enjoy unlimited access to a wide range of educational content.

Access is free to all Vodacom customers – users from other networks will be charged for the data though.Before exam time, learners can now complete lessons from their school syllabus, so that they learn and revise at the same time. They can also track their progress and see how they are performing compared to other students in a fun, easy and interactive way.


Here are some other tips that can help your kids:

Be prepared

Ensure your children know what is expected from them in the exam, and that they have all the notes and books on hand they’ll need to study.

Exams generally test four levels of thinking: basic (for example, memorising facts), complex (for example, inferring something from something), routine (for example, a maths times table), and critical thinking (for example analyzing and interpreting). Knowing what will be expected of your child will help them know how to prepare, and they’ll feel in better control knowing what to expect.

Identify your child’s best way to learn  

Try to identify ways to optimise the way your child studies, in a way they will enjoy. Also, try to adopt exciting new strategies around that.

Create a great learning environment

A good atmosphere and comfortable learning space can lead to productive learning and revision. Ensure your child has what they need to thrive. Whether it is sufficient lighting and a quiet space, or a comfortable chair coupled with the necessary stationery – the right environment can make all the distance.

Spread out revision  

It’s difficult for anyone to concentrate on learning for long periods of time, so ensure your child is taking short breaks between revision bursts.

Support them 

Studying is not always fun or easy, so praise your children when they are working hard. Encourage rather than threaten, as kids don’t need more stress during exam pressure. If they do get stressed, try to respond to their emotions by listening, reassuring them, or hugging them. Once they’ve calmed down, you can deal with practical solutions, such as setting up a revision timetable, or getting the necessary help they might need.

Ensure they’re sleeping sufficiently

Sleep is important to not only give children mental and physical rest, but to consolidate what’s been learnt during the day. Ensure their room is dark, as light interferes with melatonin (the hormone needed for sleep) production. The blue light emitted by tablets and phones can also be disruptive to sleep.


Research has shown that a 30-minute workout session every day not only boosts your health, but your brain too. Exercise has been shown to aid memory, attention and the rate at which we process information.

Eat and drink well

Ensure that kids ensure their blood sugar levels steady to prevent energy dips, and avoid quick-release carbohydrates such as sweets, biscuits and chocolate in favour of lean protein, pulses, fruit and dairy. They should stay well hydrated with water.

Take regular breaks

Ensure your kids take a break every 30 minutes for a few minutes to have a snack, go for a quick walk, or chat to a friend. This helps the mind and body to relax, and “regroup” away from the studying.

Create a study plan

Help your kids create a study timetable so that they keep control over their learning, and so that you can both ensure everything is being ticked off.


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